For the past two days, a conservative blogger has ginned up publicity for his work outing a 21-year-old young man–a former congressional page and current deputy campaign manager for a heartland Republican congressman–who received sexually explicit instant messages from disgraced Florida GOP Rep. Mark Foley when he was 17 and 18 years old. I have received several e-mails from the blogger and readers flogging the post.
I refused to link to the blogger then and even though the Drudge Report has plastered screaming headlines about the blogger’s scoop, I refuse to link to it now. There was absolutely no good reason to expose the former congressional page’s name and identity. Seizing on ABC News’ redaction failure and reporting errors (more on that in a moment) to play gotcha in a feeble attempt to avenge Foley is not a sufficient reason to obliterate the young man’s privacy. The young man was the prey, not the predator.
Nobody is acting well here. ABC News seems to have made an honest error when it failed to completely redact the young man’s AOL IM handle. That’s how the conservative blogger traced the exposed man’s identity. But in the wake of the Drudge pounding tonight, the news network surreptitiously edited its misreporting on the young man’s age at the time of one of the IM exchanges without bothering to make clear it was a correction.
Originally, ABC News had reported:
ABC News now has obtained 52 separate instant message exchanges, which former pages say were sent by Foley, using the screen name Maf54, to two different boys under the age of 18.
It appears that after the Drudge headline went up, ABC News changed the wording without acknowledging the change:
ABC News now has obtained 52 separate instant message exchanges, which former pages say were sent by Foley, using the screen name Maf54, to two different boys who began their exchanges with Foley at the age of 16 and 17, and continued through the age of 18.
That’s bad journalism. ABC News should explicitly acknowledge its error.
That said, some on my side of the political aisle are so bent on shooting the messenger that they have tossed their scruples and good judgement to the wind. Over a prolonged period with who knows how many pages and former pages, Foley abused his power. Not vice versa. ABC News says the other recipient of the explicit IMs it has obtained began receiving them at 16, and also reports that it has logs dating back 5 years. Who knows how many more were contacted and at what ages?
Drudge–who has railed on his radio show against Foley’s prey as “beasts” who were “egging” Foley on–characterizes the exposed man as Foley’s “accuser.” But the young man was not the source for ABC News, according to the Wall Street Journal’s previous reporting. Look:
Two former pages — one who had been sponsored by a Republican member of Congress and one by a Democrat — offered ABC texts of sexually explicit instant messages purportedly sent by Mr. Foley. Mr. Ross said the network then tracked down the original recipients of those messages, using a page yearbook, and got firsthand confirmation of their authenticity. Mr. Ross said he thinks one of the original recipients was a Democrat and the other a Republican.
The right thing for the conservative outing mob to have done would have been to halt the gotcha locomotive and make a good-faith effort to ask the young man if he was Brian Ross’s primary source or “accuser.” But nobody gave him a chance to verify that before his name was dragged out into the open.
Also lost in the feeding frenzy is the plain, indelible fact that Foley initiated his sexually explicit contacts with the exposed young man when he was a minor. Read:
The fact that Foley continued his contact with the exposed young man after he turned 18 does not mitigate his original predatory behavior before.
This young man’s name is now one of Technorati’s top search terms thanks to the conservative outing mob. Are you proud of sinking to the level of the liberal witch hunters? Shall we all shrug our shoulders now and accept the inevitability of turning into our own worst enemies?
Meanwhile, there’s this mess via Fox News:
House GOP leaders on Tuesday asked for an investigation into an allegation that former Rep. Mark Foley showed up drunk outside the House page dorm near the nation’s capitol, FOX News confirmed.
The allegation first arose during a members-only Republican conference call Monday. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said he had heard a rumor about Foley’s alleged drunken visit to the page dorm, which is located behind the Cannon House Office Building, one block south of the Capitol.
FOX News has also learned that House Majority Leader John Boehner advised Wicker not to discuss the rumor in detail on the call but to refer the matter more privately to House leadership.
According to a GOP source, Boehner sought to avoid the Wicker story from being leaked to the media. Boehner’s called that characterization “completely false” and said Boehner only sought to have Wicker work the rumors through formal leadership channels, not on a party-wide conference call.
Yesterday, Boehner sent a letter to the Clerk of the House, Karen Hass, seeking an investigation. He did not release the letter publicly until late Wednesday.
The letter read in part: “it has been brought to my attention that an alleged incident may have occurred in years past involving former Representative Foley. Specifically, it has been alleged that he may have been seen intoxicated at night outside the U.S. House of Representatives Page Dormitory, possibly attempting to gain entry to the building.”
Boehner’s letter went on to say “As you are the current Clerk of the House and Officer in charge of the Page Program, I am requesting any and all information your office has regarding this alleged incident and the involvement of the Office of the Clerk at that time and henceforth.”
It is unknown when the episode occurred.
However, Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Conference, sent a letter to Hass saying that U.S. Capitol Police officers stopped Foley from entering the page dorm “within the last several years.”
Pryce also said on the same Monday GOP, members-only conference call, lawmakers said that the Director of the Republican Pages “brought specific concerns about then-Congressman Foley’s behavior to the attention of the then-Clerk of the House.”
This deserves the screaming headline.
Bryan Preston does more air-clearing. Read the whole thing.